Willhoite’s 2-homer, 3-RBI night leads Chatham to 6–4 victory over Yarmouth-Dennis
by Tyler Schiff Monday, July 31, 2023
Chatham catcher Jayden Melendez got to Trace Willhoite before a sea of royal blue engulfed Willhoite.
Willhoite’s second home run of the game gave Chatham a 6–3 lead.
A few rounds of polite taps on Willhoite’s helmet ensued, paired with a couple of fist-bumps. As he walked near the dirt-dressed steps of Yarmouth-Dennis’ visiting dugout, Willhoite was met by a chorus of cheers and congratulatory grins.
“Hitting is about confidence,” Chatham interim manager Todd Shelton “And now that he’s [Willhoite] got some confidence, he’s going out there every time with a plan.”
In Chatham’s last contest on Sunday, a two-run Willhoite moonshot propelled it to a 11–0 thrashing of Harwich. At Y-D the following day, Willhoite struck again, charting a homer in each the second and eighth innings for three total RBIs. His first helped the Anglers (13–27–2 East) to a 2–0 lead while his second supplied them with the necessary insurance to see out a 6–4 victory over the Red Sox (23–18–1 East).
“We’re playing a lot more relaxed,” Shelton said. “When you get good starts and you’re in the ballgame at the beginning it builds confidence going into the middle of the innings.”
In his fourth consecutive game batting leadoff, Chatham’s Brennan Holt showcased a disciplined eye to earn a walk in his first at-bat. Then, he stole his third bag of the season before advancing to third base off an errant throw that escaped Y-D’s second baseman RJ Austin.
Lane Forsyth struck out after four pitches for the game’s first out but Tyler Wulfert took one to shallow right field for his ninth RBI of the season, bringing Holt home.
With Wulfert perched at first, Yarmouth-Dennis starter Jason Doctorczyk executed a couple of pickoffs in hopes of ending the first inning. Despite Doctorczyk being unsuccessful, Red Sox catcher, Manny Garza, popped up from his crouch and rocketed a pinpoint throw to second base, snuffing out a Wulfert steal attempt.
Chatham starter Tommy Molsky (Penn State) finished with nine strikeouts and allowed six hits in 6 1/3 innings pitched against Yarmouth Dennis at Merrill "Red" Wilson Field on July. 31. Emma Connelly / Chatham Anglers
In his 10th appearance of the summer, Molsky settled in quickly. He saw just four batters. Molsky induced a fly-out to center field from Enzo Apadaca and recorded two strikeouts.
Willhoite belted his first home run of the afternoon to begin the second inning. Taking advantage of Merrill “Red” Wilson Field’s short dimensions, Willhoite planted a high-riser into the surrounding trees. His hit kicked off a chorus of hoots from the first-base dugout.
“He hit 19 at Lipscomb last year,” Shelton said of Willhoite. “He’s got hand strength, he’s got bat speed. The thing about him is that he is a really intelligent hitter. He has watched the hitters in front of him. “
Molsky breezed through Y-D’s side, 1–2–3, to finish the second frame. To start the third, however, he relinquished a looping single from Theo Hardy for the Red Sox’s first hit of the matchup. Ryan Stafford managed to lace a double, which tiptoed down the third-base foul line placing the tying run in scoring position, but Austin grounded out to second base for a comfortable third out.
“His pitch counts were good, he was throwing well and he had a real feel for the hitters he was facing,” Shelton said of Molsky.
Chatham’s Kyson Donahue struck out swinging in his second at-bat and Doctorczyk walked Bryce Martin-Grudzielanek. A Kaeden Kent home run, mashed to right-center field off five deliveries, made it 4–0. In response, a lively Anglers’ dugout erupted once more in the top of the fourth inning.
A dropped third strike from Melendez resulted in a throwing error which skied over Willhoite at first base. Prior to the error, Molsky was up 2–0 in the count. He watched helplessly as Braden Montgomery sauntered to second base while Willhoite chased after the runaway ball.
Zander Darby knocked a sacrifice groundout to drive Montgomery home, cutting the visiting lead to 4–1. But Chatham's second baseman, Deric Fabian, easily collected a routine William Gleed bouncer, soon after, to end Y-D’s turn at the plate.
Molsky remained comfortable through the fifth frame, exuberating a seemingly unparalleled brand of confidence. Across nine previous outings this summer, Molsky totaled 24 earned runs in 24 innings pitched, allowing 13 walks. To finish the fifth against Yarmouth-Dennis, he fanned Stafford for his eight strikeout of the contest, further stifling the home offense.
Shelton opted to stay with Molsky in the sixth frame. Yet, an Austin double, taken to right-center field, proved an indication that the Anglers’ starter reached his pitch limit. Then, Hunter Hines lofted a two-run homer to draw the Red Sox within one.
“Tommy, he threw a gem,” Willhoite said. He gave up a hit but up until that point he was throwing great. Gave up the home run but he came back and got some outs after that. He didn’t want to come out of the game.”
In the midst of a dwindling bullpen, Shelton replaced Molsky with Ryan Verdugo after 6 1/3 innings.
For the rest of the seventh, and the entirety of the eighth, Verdugo preserved a narrow Chatham advantage. He did it in secure fashion, garnering a strikeout along the way. Wilhoit’s second no-doubter supplied the reliever with a two-run cushion, but, in the ninth frame, Verdugo put runners on at second and third base. A passed ball then gifted Yarmouth-Dennis its fourth run.
“He probably needed to just throw the fastball in the strike zone in that situation and make the guy hit the ball,” Shelton said of Verdugo’s stint on the mound.
With Y-D’s Ryan Jackson representing the tying score at third, Verdugo looked calm. He needed one final out. Facing Austin, Verdugo pitched and forced a grounder destined for the leather of second baseman, Fabian.
Austin was gunned down at first. Verdugo’s black and white cleats had already started toward the dugout.
“To come out and win two in a row is a big thing,” Shelton said.